Sunday, 7 February 2016

Day Benue Stood Still As Tor Tiv Went Home

A visitor would need no one’s assistance to understand that something unusual had happened in Benue State last Thursday as markets, banks, shops and schools closed down to honour the late paramount ruler of the Tiv nation, Tor Tiv IV, Orchivirigh, Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula.

The week-long event marking the final passage of the late royal father who died on Sunday, November 22, last year, began with traditional mourning by all the Tiv nation and climaxed in an interdenominational church service before the interment of the deceased at the palace coliseum in Gboko on Thursday, February 4, 2016.
Earlier, the Central Planning Committee (CPC) of the burial ceremony announced the commencement of the programme which started on Thursday, January 28 with the Jemgbagh intermediary area hosting an all-night wake keep.

The following day, the Jechira kindred had their turn, then the Kwande and Sankera areas also kept vigil on Saturday and Sunday respectively. On Monday, Tiv people in diaspora stayed awake all night to mourn their king. The various stages of the traditional mourning rites were concluded on Tuesday and Wednesday by the Minda intermediary area where the deceased hailed from.
At the commencement of the interdenominational service, the CPC chairman, retired Brigadier General John Atom Kpera, in a welcome address appreciated the support of the state government and the entire Tiv nation in making the ceremony worthwhile.
Thereafter, the son of the deceased, Dr. Terlumun Thomas Terkula, introduced the immediate family members to the congregation before reading his late father’s biography which among others, indicated that he was married to six wives and lost one of them in 1999.
Terkula said his father was the longest serving Tor Tiv since 1946, when the stool was introduced and that he was born to Chief Torkula Amah of Mbadwen in Utyondo and was a second child of his mother, Nginkaa wan Tingir.
Following the establishment of the stool, late Orchvirigh Makar Dzakpe became the first TorTiv to mount the throne between 1946 and 1956. He was succeeded by the late Orchivirigh Gondo Aluor who reigned between 1956 and 1978, while the late Orchivirigh James Akperan took over as Tor-Tiv III between 1979 and 1990. It was after his death that the deceased Tor-Tiv, HRH Dr. Alfred Akawe Torkula IV, ascended the exalted seat in 1991.
Indeed, the people of Gboko town would for a long time remember the befitting honour done to the late Tor Tiv as he embarked on the journey which is referred to in the local parlance as an eternal hunting expedition to the land of the spirits, as kings are believed not to die.
At about 1pm on Wednesday, the body of the late king arrived the Ijirtamen hall where it was received by the council of traditional rulers and representatives of government for a valedictory session.
The Ijirtamen, meaning the great court of the Tiv people, is the supreme traditional assembly in Tiv land which in recent times admits the membership of Jukun, Etulo, Hausa and Alago residents in its territory.
Those in attendance at the burial ceremonies included first class traditional rulers from across the country, including the Sultan of Sokoto who was represented by the Gbom Gbong Jos; top government functionaries, senators, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and many of his colleagues as well as captains of industry.
 Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom and his Kogi State counterpart, Yahaya Bello who led other state officials to the event, in their speeches, lauded the achievements of the late TorTiv and charged the Tiv people to continue to sustain their loyalty to the foremost traditional stool of the land.
Ortom renamed the Benue State College of Advanced and Professional Studies (CAPS) after the late paramount ruler to immortalise him. He said the institution would henceforth be referred to as, Akawe Torkula College of Advanced and Professional Studies, Makurdi.
He said the death of the monarch was symbolic as it came exactly 70 years after the Tor Tiv stool was created and extolled him for the fight against negative trends, such as the consumption of illicit gin (ogogoro) and other social crimes that plagued the society.
Similarly, former governor of the state, Gabriel Suswam, described the late Tor Tiv as a man of the people and urged prominent Tiv indigenes to ensure they cared for the family he left behind.
He listed the royal father’s achievements in his 24-year reign to include creation of 14 second class stools in the 14 Tiv dominated LGAs; proposed creation of six additional first class stools and 60 third class stools; and the use of beads for traditional rulers in Tiv land.
He said the monarch also translated an English play entitled, ‘Two to Tango’ by Harry Ugwu to French in his Masters in French thesis at the University of Calabar and authored more than six books which include, ‘Death and Burial Custom of the Tiv People of Central Nigeria’, ‘The Cosmology in Tiv Worldview’, ‘The Tiv Woman, (Challenges and Prospect)’ and ‘Presidential Democracy in Nigeria: Grassroot Experience’.
Similarly, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, eulogised the late royal father whom, he said, was his classmate and challenged the Tiv people to find a true replacement of the deceased king.
During the week-long activities, dancers and singers thrilled the audience as they recalled that the late revered monarch who was the first TorTiv to reject the turban and alkyaba and adopted the use of ancestral traditional regalia of tiger skin cap and beads, popular among kings of Bantu origin where the Tivs’ linked their ancestry.
Without doubt, the late Tor Tiv, born on July 10, 1944 in what is today known as Mbadwem district of Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, had a remarkable burial on Thursday. The mammoth crowd that attend the event was a testimony of a life well lived.
Clergies led by the state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Archbishop Yiman Orkwar, offered prayers to God for the repose of the deceased’s soul, while Pastor Tom Igyah in his advice for the next Tor Tiv, said anybody that would aspire for the throne through diabolical means, popularly known as “juju”, will not see the light of day and that the stool should be given to the one who deserves it only by merit.
The late monarch started his early education between 1953 and 1958 at the Tiv Native Authority Primary School, Gboko and in 1959 completed his first school leaving certificate at St. Theresa’s Primary School, Naka. He proceeded to Mount St. Michael’s Secondary School, Aliade between 1960 and 1964 and then concluded at King’s College, Lagos in 1966.
His search for knowledge took him to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, University of Besancon (France), St. Clements University Australia and University of Calabar respectively where he obtained various degrees including his doctorate.
His working experience started from July, 1971 as Asst. Secretary, Ministry of Land and Survey in the then Benue-Plateau State, Jos. He rose through the ladder to become Principal Private Secretary to the Military Governor of Benue State, Lt-Col. Abdullahi Shelleng.
At various times, he was Secretary, Gwer Local Government, Aliade, Sole Administrator, Otukpo Local Government Area and Assistant Clerk, Benue State House of Assembly, Makurdi as well as commissioner in the state before his ascension to the throne as Tor Tiv in 1991.
The late Tor Tiv was former chancellor of University of Ibadan and he held the position of Pro-Chancellor of Michael Okpara University, Umudike in Abia State, until his death.
It is hoped that the palace garden where, besides his final resting place, sits among the tomb of the first three royal fathers according to their succession, would in the future enable tourists appreciate the history of the people in better perspective.

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